Focus made a pretty big splash when they unveiled their sub-13kg Project Y mountain bike last year. Now they’ve turned their attention to the road, with the new Project Y road bike. Well, we say road bike: The tag line for the bike is “endless possibilities” and Focus had three possibilities on show at Eurobike Media Days: a road bike, a gravel bike and a cyclocross bike, all using the same frame design.
The frame itself is carbon, and designed to take 35mm tyres at the front and the rear. It features Focus Rapid Axle Technology through axles at the front and the rear and it’s disc-only, with flat mounts on the frame and the fork.
Focus have used what they call a “road boost” rear axle on the Project Y, which is 148mm wide as opposed to 142mm. Their reasoning is that the slightly wider bottom bracket of the Fazua motor pushes the chain line out, so you need to compensate at the rear wheel. That sounds pretty reasonable, although obviously you’re going to be stuck with the wheels that Focus have developed in conjunction with DT Swiss, at least for now.
The Project Y bikes from Focus all use the Evation drive system that’s made by Fazua. It’s one of the new drive systems we reported on at Eurobike last year and it’s a modular system. The gearbox, which incorporates the bottom bracket, is built into the bike. Both the motor and the battery, though, are removeable. They sit underneath the down tube and connect with the gearbox via a cloverleaf-shaped drive cog.
One of the interesting things about the Fazua system is that you can remove it almost entirely and ride the bike without power. The gearbox stays in place but Focus say that it doesn’t really add much loss to the drivetrain – we haven’t tried it yet so can’t confirm that – and at only 1kg doesn’t add an awful lot to the weight of the bike. The Focus Project Y needs a beefed-up down tube design to handle the forces going through the bike, but save for that and the gearbox there’s no weight added once you take the motor out, which means that the whole bike without motor comes in at under 10kg in race bike build. Once you’ve added the motor and battery it’s still well under 13kg: Focus told us the whole Fazua system weighs just 4kg, although Fazua themselves were saying 4.7kg at Eurobike last year.
Anyway, it’s light. Part of that weight saving over the 6-7kg of a standard mid motor system is the battery: the Fazua uses a 250Wh battery which is some way below the 400-500Wh you’ll find on most mid motor bikes. That will mean lower range under power, but Focus were very keen to point out that the Project Y bikes aren’t about e-mobility, they’re designed to have the riding experience of a non-powered bike with assistance as and when you need it.
Certainly on a sub-13kg road bike you’re going to spend a fair bit of time well above the 25km/h cut-off for the motor so you won’t be using any power there; when the road kicks up is when the 250W motor will kick in. The 400W peak power that Fazua claim isn’t far off what some of the other mid motors are capable of, although we’ll reserve judgement on what the motor can do until we’ve had a go on one. This isn’t just a vanity project though: Focus are keen to develop these bikes, and the Project Y mountain bike is close to production.
Whether the path that Focus are taking here is better or worse than the more standard big-motor-and-battery route is a point for discussion: it'll probably suit some people and not others, but that's probably true of most e-bikes. What everyone agreed on that we talked to, though, was that this was about the neatest integration of a motor into a road bike that we've yet seen. You really need to look twice to spot that there's a power plant lurking in the down tube. And, because you can take the whole thing out, there might not be.
Reideable samples aren't available yet but Focus are hoping to have some ready by the end of summer. We'll be joining the orderly queue when they do.